Roy Exum: About Winning At All Costs

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

On a cold winter’s day when I pause to consider our landscape, it is staggering to me that our nation’s top institutions of higher learning have – thus far – just divvied out over $50 million to football coaches whose contracts have been broken. In a world where we had hoped a man’s word was his bond and where a handshake once guaranteed an agreement, I fear we have gone terribly off-course in teaching values and decency to our next generations. Forget your promise, just write a check.

Nowhere is the stench of “win at all costs”  worse this day than at Western Kentucky University where on Monday, in the most brazen hire in recent history, Robert P. Petrino escaped the public’s exile by being named as the new football coach of the Hilltoppers. Petrino, the most notorious scalawag in the game’s history, has enough tainted baggage to fill a storage warehouse but WKU officials, citing the United States as a land of the second chance, tossed integrity and institution values to the wind because “Bobby P.” has proven one thing above all else -- he can indeed win on Saturday afternoons.

The national outcry over Petrino’s hiring yesterday was predictable. Here’s a guy who has a long history over cover-ups and lying. Back when Tommy Tuberville was struggling at Auburn, Petrino had clandestine talks with his superiors. At Louisville he signed a contract extension less than a week before he shamelessly bolted to the Atlanta Falcons in 2007.

When the Arkansas job came open, he sulked away in the dead of the night, leaving a four-sentence laminated letter for his shocked (and livid) players to read in his mid-season wake. He is still considered the biggest coward in NFL history, this acerbated by the fact the Falcons owner was misled by blatant mistruths from Bobby P. and blindly did two national interviews based on the deception.

And while Petrino won 75 while losing 26 in all his previous years in college, a tawdry affair with comely female he hired on his staff – and a slew of more lies and misconception – caused him to not only be fired by an enraged Arkansas in April, but painted him as an evil, wicked misfit who was suddenly far more famous for his Harley-Davidson follies than his acumen in the passing game.

Now, in less than an eight months after whatever really happened that Sunday afternoon on Hwy. 16 outside of Fayetteville, a contrite yet somewhat smug Petrino has just signed an $850,000 contract at Western that has more loopholes and tangled knots than your child’s fishing reel. The consensus is he’ll hardly stay in Bowling Green for long, winning quickly and taking the first big-boy offer even faster.

Ironically, Petrino had longed to return to the SEC and two of the schools he tried hard to entice – Kentucky and Tennessee – are the Hilltoppers’ first two opponents next fall. At Monday’s announcement there was a huge crowd at the Stadium Club, which prompted new athletic director Todd Stewart to quip it was the largest crowd he’d seen in the room all season.

Western Kentucky has a good football team by Sunbelt Conference standards, this year’s team set to play in the Little Caesar’s Bowl against Central Michigan the day after Christmas. Willie Taggart, who guided Western to a 7-5 mark in the regular season, was lured away last week by South Florida. Two of Petrino’s children attend the University of Louisville so, for Bobby and his reconciled wife the offer to move away from Arkansas was a Godsend.

The bigger prize is that the Western job will give Petrino the time and the leverage to further repair his reputation. From the response at Western, it appears he is relishing such a chance and WKU, hoping time and wins will ease the “win at all costs” mentality, will reap wide benefits from a heightened media, a microwave-quick fan base and an intrigued (to say the least) sports world.

The Bible plainly reads, “Judge not lest ye be judged”  but the overwhelming consensus by the nation’s media yesterday was that atonement “cannot be rushed.” Public perception aside, the question of “If his wife forgives him, who are we to say?”  is a heady one. Then again, Petrino’s callous history is as sordid as any individual in our society and now he’ll be more watched and studied than any high school biology project.

That said, while the dismay and scorn is suddenly heaped on Western Kentucky, explain how great universities like Tennessee and Auburn and Purdue deftly write a check for all to see rather than fulfill a promise once thought to be valid. Compromising integrity and values should clearly be part of what we are teaching our young and, with sports now the front porch of storied institutions all across America, $50 million in less than a month -- just to win -- is quite telling about all of us.

royexum@aol.com


Roy Exum: A Very Silly Apology

It didn’t get a lot of attention, as well it should not have, but when I heard Japanese giant Mitsubishi was offered an apology for heinous war crimes that took place during World War II, I thought it was an ill-conceived publicity stunt. But, no, in a solemn ceremony last month hosted by the Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, that is exactly what ... (click for more)

How To Be #ChattanoogaStrong

Chattanooga is my home; I was born here 35 years ago. Without a doubt, this has been one of the most challenging times in our city's history. The #ChattanoogaStrong hashtag will remain for quite some time, but it means so much more than 18 characters on social media. It represents the sorrow and mourning, as well as the resilience and compassion, of our exceptional community.  ... (click for more)

Truck Driver Who Caused Wreck That Killed 6 People At Ooltewah Indicted On 13 Charges; Report Says He Drove Excessive Hours

The Chattanooga Police Department has issued a capias for the arrest of Benjamin Brewer, 39, concerning the multiple fatality traffic crash that occurred on I-75 northbound on June 25. Brewer was indicted on Monday on 13 counts.  They include six counts of vehicular homicide by impairment, a B-felony; four counts for reckless aggravated assault, a D-felony; one count for DUI ... (click for more)

Rawls Says Schools Could Have Better Spent $16,000 Than For Motivational Speech; County To Explore Performance Guaranteed Utility Contract

Bradley County Commissioner Dan Rawls said three school systems could have better spent $16,000 than for a motivational speaker to fire teachers up at the start of a new school year. He said the payment to Ron Clark, former National Teacher of the Year and the founder of the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, could have gone for school supplies and other needs. Bradley County ... (click for more)

NPSL Championship To Be Played In Chattanooga

It's Chattanooga FC taking on the New York Cosmos B for the National Premier Soccer League’s national championship and the Scenic City's Finley Stadium is the site Saturday, August 8 at 7:30 p.m. Thanks to a 9,000 plus crowd at Chattanooga's 3-0 semifinal win against the Indiana Fire, the Tennessee team broke the league’s previous record of 8,878, which was ... (click for more)

Jones Press Conference Kicks Off Vols' Preseason

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Coach Butch Jones held his preseason football press conference on Monday at Neyland Stadium. Jones heads into his third season with visible enthusiasm after the Vols finished off the 2014 season with an impressive win over Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl, following that up with another nationally ranked recruiting class. "In terms of our football team, we ... (click for more)